Gadolinium is element number 64 on the Periodic Table of the Elements and falls under the class of elements called lanthanides. According to “The Disappearing Spoon,” a quarry, named Ytterby, in a coastal village of Sweden exposed lanthanide-rich rock in the last Ice Age. In the 1700s, scientists popped up in Finland and Sweden and studied rocks from the Ytterby quarry. The element, gadolinium, happen to be an exposed rock from the Ytterby quarry.
According to the European Association for Chemical and Molecular Sciences, a chemist named Johan Gadolin lived from 1760 to 1852 in Scandinavia and became a chemist. He traveled Europe as a young man and met Josiah Wedgwood from the Wedgwood family of porcelain makers. He toured the clay mines of Wedgwood family and studied geochemist. After his reputation arose in his region as a geochemist, young geologist sent him rocks from the Yetterby quarry. Johan Gadolin analyzed the rocks and published his opinions in the scientific literature of his time.
Johan Gadolin discovered lanthanides elements in 1794 and named the first discovery, yttrium, after the origin of the rock from Yetterby quarry. Gadolinium belongs to the lanthanide metal elements on the periodic table. The metals in the lanthanide group go by the name of rare earth elements. Most metal elements appear as cold, gray lumps, but the lanthanides create exotic pigments and colored glazes when processed.
The Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography describes Jean Charles Marignac’s isolation of the new rare earth element, gadolinium in 1886. Jean Charles Marignac, a Swiss chemist, determined the molecular weights on 28 of the periodic table elements. His dedication to science helped him extract gadolinium from ytterbia. For the discovery of the lanthanide series of rare earth element, the scientific community named gadolinium after Johan Gadolin. Gadolinium became the first element named for a person.
Gadolinium in Medicine
Intravenous MRI contrast agents use solutions of gadolinium complexes and compounds to enhance images in the magnetic resonance imaging or MRI. Gadolinium based agents collect in abnormal tissues of the brain and body. The pooling of contrast agent provides a greater distinction between normal and abnormal tissues and permits physicians to locate abnormal cells like cancers, infections and abnormal cell growths better. Gadolinium provides one of the best agents for detecting cancers.
Safety of Gadolinium
Gadolinium MRI contrast agents provide a safer contrast agent than iodinated contrast agents. Individuals with renal failure on dialysis possess a risk of rare but serious conditions. Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis and nephrogenic fibrosing dermopathy occur occasionally in renal failure patients on dialysis. The current Food and Drug Administration guidelines advise providers to use gadolinium agents on dialysis patients where essential, and advise dialysis treatment immediately after the scan is complete.
“The Disappearing Spoon”; The Galapagos of the Periodic Table; Sam Kean; 2010
European Association for Chemical and Molecular Sciences: Johan Gadolin http://www.euchems.org/Distinguished/18thCentury/gadolin.asp
Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography: Johan Gadolin http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Johan_Gadolin.aspx
Food and Drug Administration: Gadolinium http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm152672.htm